Best in field: Worthwhile Use


U+I believe that Meanwhile Use is an integral part of the development process. 

In a world where there is an unavoidable delay between acquiring a site and beginning construction, meanwhile-use is instrumental in understanding the fine grain of a place, which would be completely missed by simply erecting hoardings until planning is secured.

It’s a developer’s responsibility to have a meaningful interaction with the local community in order to become educated on the history of the site and how it’s viewed by local residents. Unfortunately, many developers aren’t willing to invest the time and effort it takes to develop a rapport with residents and deliver something they truly need. Not only is this wasteful, but often damaging to the local community. It’s no surprise that boarded up sites incite resentment and the fear of change.

However, there are some developers that do try their hand at meanwhile-use but as Deputy CEO of U+I, Richard Upton, commented last year, ‘somehow serving coffee at a fiver a cup does not feel right in the middle of a community where unemployment may be well above average. It is not connected with the community, has no understanding of the people around it which means it is of limited value in the short term and delivers nothing for the long term.’

We believe that meanwhile-use can be truly worthwhile when it has been conceived from an understanding of the community and a commitment to deliver social and economic value that is authentic to the area.

In 2015 we began our worthwhile-use initiative at Preston Barracks when we transformed a derelict building in Brighton into a co-working space for a bespoke community of innovative, local enterprises which we called FIELD. We carefully curated these businesses to ensure that they were each offering something distinctive to the community.


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Preston Barracks, Brighton: Empowering small businesses

Whilst it may have taken a little more time to identify and house each of these businesses, we believe that it has enriched the community. One business owner managed to raise £200,000 through crowd-funding and said that the space provided to him at FIELD allowed him to save enough money to employ his first team member, one of the first milestones in the growth of a business.

6 of the original 8 entrepreneurs felt such an impact from the success and community cultivated whilst hatching their businesses at FIELD that they have established their own limited company. With the help of U+I, Leftfield, as the company will be known, has identified a new space where they can once again work with and support each other. U+I is proud to have been able to bring together such an dynamic mix of creatives that have formed genuine personal and professional relationships.


“The support from U+I has allowed us to focus our efforts and consolidate our work. We have learned a lot about collaboration from FIELD.”

Play Talk Learn

But the story doesn’t end there, after securing planning permission, construction at Preston Barracks will begin in early 2018 – the next stage in our delivery of a £300m PPP project, creating 1,500 jobs, providing hundreds of new homes and injecting over £500m into the local economy over the next 10 years. Our work with FIELD has provided the inspiration to retain a co-working community within the final development. Once complete, Preston Barracks will be home to a brand new Central Research Laboratory where start up and early stage makers will be able to test and develop their products. Productivity is essential to making places like Preston Barracks work as a mixed-use community, and we are excited to be supporting the next generation of growing entrepreneurs in Brighton.

These are the entrepreneurs that have conceived Leftfield:

Control Freq develops unique entry systems, evolving the technology behind intercom and door-entry systems into advanced on-demand car park access systems for ‘Airbnb of Parking’ providers. Control Freq said:

“During my time at FIELD, my business grew threefold and I gained determination and focus for the next few years. It’s been pivotal in turning my business around, getting more focused and feeling more positive about my business and personal future.”

P Kirkwood creates handcrafted, functional and stylish leather bags and satchels for both men and women, including utility goods such as tool rolls and aprons. P Kirkwood said:

“Being around like-minded people in business is very important. I now have a great set of like-minded colleagues, who help each other out with all kinds of business as well as product development. FIELD has given me the opportunity to grow my business, but also to meet new friends and be part of something that is constantly evolving.”

Play Talk Learn is a start-up dedicated to innovating early learning. Play Talk Learn said:

“The support from U+I has allowed us to focus our efforts and consolidate our work. We have learned a lot about collaboration from FIELD.”

MakerClub is a network of after-school clubs based in the UK designed to teach invention and all the skills that come with it, in order to build a world-wide squad of creative thinkers, designers and problem solvers, ready to take on the world and remake it for the better. Makerclub said:

“When we joined FIELD, we were hoping to make connections with a community of start-ups in the same position and grow our company without the burden of high rents. Having [that] space has enabled us to make these mistakes, learn from them and develop our direction.”

The Intrepid Camera is a handmade wooden 4×5 film camera, which combines modern manufacturing with traditional carpentry to create a beautiful handmade and lightweight professional product. Union Motion is a socially responsible engineering and innovation group that works on electric power systems for lightweight vehicles.